Bow Hunting Moose in Canada. By BJ Holdsworth, an adventure with Pete McKeen.

November 05, 2015

After 15 months of Planning and preparation we finally arrived in a small town called Atlin this is in Northern British Columbia, Canada and would be the last bit of civil country before embarking on a float plane to hunt my dream trophy animal the Canadian Moose. My buddy Dave and I had booked a hunt with Pete McKeen who runs a bowhunting only business and has been in the game for 20 years, experience counts when it is your intention to succeed against the odds with a bow and arrow, and we booked on a reputable reference–nothing else.

I can only describe the feeling of lifting off Atlin lake in that Beaver heading into the wild as a rush, we were both pretty excited actually I was fizzing and efforts to keep a lid on things were a battle the internal Jack Russell within me was bouncing off the walls and I reckon we were both as giddy as school kids.


When we arrived at camp on the shore of Skinny lake some 50 minutes later, our guide met us along with two clients that had had his service for 10 days prior, a good looking set of moose antlers sat on the shore-that was a very welcoming sight, “got him at five yards” the hunter told me , “WOW congrats” I replied . Pete Mckeen was right there with a big burly hand offering a welcoming handshake , “Pleased to moose you” I said , I was really having trouble keeping a grip and dealing with the added adrenaline from the flight through the mountains..With the departing hunters gear loaded we watched the plane leave and wandered up to the cabin, it was great to be there. The first rule of moose hunting was no hunting for six hours following a flight, this is law to prevent any would be hunters spotting an animal from above and then in turn getting it soon after, we unpacked our gear cut some wood then were given the orders to catch some fish for dinner.

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The Fish were crazy I hooked two inside the first 10 casts and Dave who was in the dingy had a fish on within a few minutes of leaving the small makeshift dock, they were small but feisty and turned out to be delicious with Pete’s special batter one of the best trout meals I have had, easy.

That night in our cabin Dave and I were both awaken to the sound of Wolves howling an airy sound that seemed to carry well in the still of the night, I hit the light on my watch it was 1 am I remember thinking what effect this would have on the Moose hunting, I had my answer five hours later at breakfast when Pete told us, “Wolves in the area will make things difficult”…

After a hearty breakfast we headed to the dingy , you only hunt Moose near lakes I found out, they like the security of water bodies to swim away from wolves they can also get into a metre of water and attack swimming wolves with their hooves, that I found quite interesting–Wolves are moose enemy number 1 in these parts and we were going in for second place or at least that was the plan…

So with three layers of Hunters Element and a pair of Foxtrot boots and bow in my hand I was ready, it would be my hunt for five days then Dave’s turn, at our first stop on the shore of Cindy lake that morning we would have our first moose encounter . A bull whom was probably spiker age came right in to Pete’s calling , he actually came in really quick I was amazed how quick he covered the ground, too small to shoot even with the bow we let him walk, once realising Pete’s cow calling was not potential girlfriend material he hit the spruce not to be seen again, it was a good start to our adventure but was the only bull we saw that day, I was soon the learn that Moose are elusive and secretive they have food in the timber and don’t need to be out in the open and Pete’s Wife Kelly told us that the previous party of two had not seen a moose for three days, this completely surprised me with so much beautiful country..


So with day one over we were treated to a great meal in a warm hut, and hit our camp stretchers feeling the effects of walking for a day across tundra it was moments later something bloody dreadful started, Dave’s Snoring ….Well I nick named him “Chainsaw” in fact it was worse than that after throwing random things clean across the cabin he finally got the message and we were both able to sleep. Dave is a successful businessman and has accomplished a lot but he is the master of snoring , never I have heard such a racquet–this would be good grizzly repellent at night I hoped while trying to extract something positive from the endless din.

So Day two was another day of walking calling and glassing we did stumble into one Bull he was on to us and downwind we followed his tracks which still showed tell tale signs of a running animal even half a mile down trail, my expectant “Docile Moose” encounters were now long gone these animals we everything but and we were both a bit worried even early in the hunt that this may actually not happen. It was well justified as the one and only real chance came two days later when we finally found some rutting action.

A hot cow was spotted in the water on the shore of Bonnie lake, there was a bull with her and another opposite on the other side of the small  glass like lake, we headed in and got to about 100 yards from them, Pete cow called but the Moose had his hot girlfriend and wasn’t interested, we made a stalk as the other moose came swimming across the freezing water to join in the action, they disappeared into the thicket of willows before starting to fight, the antler clash sounded like a .22 rifle going off–we made several moves and got close but the wind was not right–trying to tact around and get in closer proved futile and the animals vanished, it was incredibly frustrating, a lot of ‘what ifs” went through my mind that morning and to add insult to injury Dave told us that there had been a bull right under us in the willows totally unseen by us, had we had radios and a earpiece it could have been a different story, it is also important to point out had we both been rifle hunting we would have shot two bulls that morning and on day four our hunt would have been over.


So with another mooseless day (my fifth day of hunting)  I turned to Dave and said “your turn buddy” it was a sombre, sobering feeling for me but I was also really hoping our fortunes would change, I had my video cameras and would hopefully get the chance to film Dave in action this proved not to be the case, we pulled out a day early of our scheduled 10 days of hunting with the lake starting to freeze over , Pete had told Dave that it was unlikely with this weather pattern that the hunting would improve , we were able to call in the plane and head out, it was a very contrasting feeling flying out to what it had been like going in and naturally we were both down but sometimes that is bowhunting defined, it was a pleasure visiting such a beautiful part of the world and as I write this I am planning another bowhunt for part two with another outfitter, I will be able to use a rifle if need be later in my hunt and will take 10 days as what is really required to get lucky with the bow .

My featured Hunters Element gear for this trip was all of it, I was warm and comfortable the whole trip, the Foxtrot boots were perfect for this adventure, we hunted in light snow one day and with my fourth layer on that particular day being my Element Jacket I remained dry and happy. In remote British Columbia where you can expect any weather I was very happy to be clad from head to toe in hunters Element apparel, my Contour pack was very comfortable also and kept my expensive cameras safe and dry , all gear getting a good work out in which came up trumps and will be worn again the next time I visit the Canadian wild.

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